Studies in Colossians
This is a continuation of the article which appeared in the October issue of Food for the Flock. The first of these studies, by Bro. Fesche, was printed In the September issue.
The continuation of these studies demands that we finish an examination of the section with which the author was dealing at the close of the last insertion.
3. The worship of an invented spirit (V. 18):
This verse is easier read in the Revised Standard Version. We do know that Gnosticism was at work in Colosse. This sect, willing enough to embrace Christianity as contributing so much toward Gnosticism’s supposed superior knowledge and sanctity, did not accept Christ as Pre-eminent. They interceded through intermediary angels. This was more self-abasing than going immediately into the presence of God through Christ. There is also the suggestion of invoking the spirit world by intruding “into those things which he hath not seen.” It was a denial that “Christ was All” in regards to knowledge. The practice of seeking the aid of canonized saints for particular needs, in principle, is condemned in this verse: also, attempts to consult spirit mediums. In Christ, are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4. Asceticism warned against (Vv. 20-23):
Here again we have that which is extra-Biblical — Christ plus something else, a human attempt to check “the indulgence of the flesh” by submitting to self-imposed rigours. It would seem that Paul is looking into the future when the monastic life would assume such a craze. Regimented denials and disciplines cannot get at the root of sin. “The circumcision of Christ” (V. 11) is the answer to what God has done for “sin in the flesh.” A realization by faith of our indentification with Christ buried and risen will make saintly Christians anywhere.
Some observations: These errors threatening the Colossian church are seen in their innocent buds. Only revelation could show how they stab at the very vitals of true Christianity. We, who can look back on 2,000 years of Church history, see whole segments of Christendom completely “leavened” by these plausible additions to Christ. They soon become the centre and Christ merely appended to them. Look how Christendom has reincorporated the Law in one way or another into its system. Do what you can with the Ten Commandments and then look to Christ to make up any shortcomings! With so much depending on human effort, assurance is looked upon as a dangerous doctrine. Other persuasions see only slight modifications between the Temple of the Old Testament and a Church filled with ritual in this dispensation. The inspiration to worship is gathered from the architecture, incense, and colourful priesthood. Such shadows do not reach the conscience. They are not after Christ. Religion instead of Christ has been developed, something in which an unconverted man can participate and enjoy. A far cry from what Paul means when he says, “For we are the circumcision which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). All true revivals have essentially been returns to Christian simplicity. Also, every reformation in its first generation of existence displayed its finest vigour. Generally, the places of meeting and the preacher’s externals were inconsequential. All were “holding the Head,” and the “joints and bands” were Christ ordained gifts ministering nourishment to the body.
“Nothing but Christ, as on we tread,
The gift unpriced — God’s living bread,
With staff in hand and feet well shod,
Nothing but Christ — the Christ of God.”
VII. The Secret of Christian Fruitfulness (3:1-6).
The first two chapters have been principally engaged in doctrine, and in pointing out those errors which will hamper the growth of a healthy Christianity. In the portion now before us, we see what good doctrine produces, or should produce. Truth stirs to activity. Divine knowledge leaves no man stationary. Objective truth leads to subjective living. True Christianity filters down to the most ordinary things of life. It does not take us away from them as does monasticism. “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he was called” (1 Cor. 7:20), says the Inspired Word.
“If ye then be risen with Christ.” The “if” here is not a suggestion of doubt; perhaps the use of the word “since” would better convey the meaning. Every believer is risen with Christ. Consequently, we are to “seek” the things above. The opposite to this would be engaging in the philosophical and religious energies of the natural man. Only the “born again” man can be truly occupied with Christ risen. The “affection” (“mind” R.S.V.) is to be developed for “things above.” When professed believers “mind” earthly things, Paul is led to weeping. Such are the enemies of the cross “whose end is destruction” (Phil. 3:17-10). The Christian’s life is Christ: it is hid with Him. In underwater operations there are the conventional divers. The diver is enabled to live in an element unnatural to him because of his contact with the surface. The Christian lives because he is in vital touch with Christ in Heaven. Redeemed by His death, which took place on earth, the Christian is now sustained, kept, saved by Christ’s risen life (Rom. 5:10). Christians are exhibiting “the divine nature” down here in this adverse element — the world. The secret and explanation of all this is the hidden Christ Who now “sitteth on the right hand of God.”
Soon that which is only known to faith will be displayed to the world. Christ will appear with His own glory. Since here we learn that we are to return “with” Him, it is natural to conclude He must first come “for” us (1 Thess. 4:16-17). So “the coming” in Colossians is the return to the earth. “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe” ( 2 Thess. 1:10).
* * *
Oh, give Thy servant patience to be still,
And bear Thy will;
The faith to venture wholly on the arm
That will not harm;
The wisdom that will never let me stray
Out of Thy way.
The love, that now afflicteth, knoweth best
When I should rest.
* * *
When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be;
I do the little I can do,
And leave the rest to Thee.